DD5LP/P & DL20SOTA – April 23rd 2022 – HEMA – DL/HCN-004 & SOTA DL/AM-180 – Berndorfer Buchet (for EU-NA S2S & First HEMA DL-G H2H).

Preparation:

Because of weather worries, I decided to head back to Berndorfer Buchet which is a current SOTA and a current HEMA summit.

As explained last time HEMA strictly adheres to its rule of including only summits with a prominence greater than 100 metres and less than 150 metres. For historical reasons, SOTA summits are not always over the SOTA rule of a minimum of 150m prominence.  Berndorfer Buchet is one such summit with a prominence of 135m.

The reason for the activation initially was to take part in a long-planned Europe to North America, Summit-to-Summit activity day. It seems the date of 23rd of April was a favourite for others as well and coincidentally this is also International Marconi Day, where many special event stations on both sides of the Atlantic are expected to be on the air. As this year marks 20 years of the SOTA award scheme, the SOTA Baden-Wurttemberg group applied for and got the special DL20SOTA call sign for use during the year. They, however, have a meeting planned for the 23rd and while several US SOTA activators would love to get a Summit-to-Summit contact with the special call sign, I offered to operate their call sign during my already planned activation and this was agreed (I am now a member of SOTA-BW).

This plan was originally based on my going to the DL/AM-060 Laber summit however with the weather forecast saying that heavy rain would start on Laber and surrounding mountains at the time I would be activating, I had to find an alternative. The forecast for Berndorfer Buchet was that there would be no rain (it actually started just as I got back to my car after the activation). So the summit was now to be DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet and I was allocated the DL20SOTA call sign from 2pm local time. I intended to be on the summit at least 30 minutes before that, which meant I could activate the HEMA code for the summit (DL/HCN-004) under my own call sign as a test of equipment prior to starting with the special call. While the DL HEMA association has not as yet had an H2H (Hema to Hema) contact, perhaps that would also be possible.

So I had a lot of things planned in what would be a somewhat more complex action with two call signs and two hill references. 

I would stick with the now tried and true configuration of G90 radio and linked dipole antenna on the 6m mast with everything fitting into or onto the medium-sized (40L) rucksack.

The Activation

The trip to the car parking spot for the summit was uneventful. It took under 30 minutes from my home. On arrival, there were three other cars in the parking spot (normally it’s empty) so I thought I might run into some people during my planned 3-hour stay – I didn’t.

After a determined walk into the forest and up the last part of the summit, I arrived at around 12:45 local (1045 UTC) and started to set up the station. As some of the trees here have been cleared, I thought I would see if I could find the trig-point stone which I found several years ago. I couldn’t – perhaps it has been removed or one of the forestry vehicles has run over it and pushed it into the ground?

I had arranged with Rob G7LAS that I would be looking for a Hema H2H contact before 14:00 local (1200 UTC) when I would be switching to the special event call sign and the SOTA summit reference and I expected to be kept quite busy. I started on 40m expecting that 20m would be too close for a contact to the UK with the skip distance. I planned to start using DL20SOTA/P on 20m at 1200 UTC with the intent of giving some S2S contacts to some North American activators. Unfortunately, Rob was delayed in getting to his summit and it was 1220 UTC before we made the contact. At first, it was not G7LAS calling me but rather Rob’s son Ben 2E0VOO/P. I was somehow able to weave this first H2H contact in between the DL20SOTA activation calls. We made contact easily on 20 metres (that should have told me conditions were short skip and Dx would be difficult).

In HEMA, it is not all points, points, points from summits – indeed unlike SOTA where a summit can have a “value” of between 1 and 10 points, in HEMA all summits are worth just one point and the scale of measurement is how many unique summits you have activated or worked and how many H2H contacts you have made. The very first H2H contact between two associations also wins a certificate, so Ben and I will be getting those.

Once the HEMA related activity was out of the way with six contacts in the HEMA log, I could get back to operating DL20SOTA and giving out the SOTA summit reference.

It was interesting that both on 20m and 40m there were bursts of activity mixed with times where the caller liked to talk a little (which is fine). Those wanting the contact waited patiently until the long call was over and then we were off again, just giving an exchange and moving on to the next caller.

DL20SOTA/P under my control made 70 contacts from around Europe. Of those 10 were unique S2S contacts with another three that were activators sharing a summit with each other. So I could say there were 13 S2S contacts. The one non-European contact was “interesting”. While calling CQ on a 20m frequency that I had been on, for over half an hour, I heard another station calling CQ when I released the microphone. This was VU2DED in India, I pointed out to him that the frequency was in use but I would be happy to give him a QSO with the special event call. We had a reports exchange and then he started calling CQ on my in-use frequency again and European stations started calling him. I decided to leave him the frequency and switch to 40m to see what was happening there.

Overall the equipment worked very well with mostly 59 or 59+ reports and a good flow of callers. It’s a while since I have been able to get the voltage down on one of the two 5Ah LIPO batteries so that the radio closed down but it happened on this activation. 

I would have liked to have achieved a contact with a North American activator but it wasn’t to be. Perhaps this is the wrong time of day for the propagation or simply that it was too early for the US and Canadian hams, most of whom were probably still in bed, depending upon how far west they are located.

With the fact that 20m has been open from  Europe to Australia and New Zealand every morning this week, we should have had the EU-VK S2S event, not the EU-NA one on this day but as these events are planned well in advance we cannot predict what propagation will nor even less what the terrestrial weather will do!

 Photos:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella support.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs) – both batteries used.
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and back-channel comms. 

Logs:

HEMA (DD5LP/P)

 

SOTA (DL20SOTA/P)

 

Conclusions:

  • The weather was colder than predicted and I was glad I had my thick winter jacket on, I had considered changing to a thinner one but it’s always better to be too warm than too cold.
  • It was complex handling the change-over between HEMA and SOTA and those who called me for both summit codes and call signs were confused. In the end, I hope everything was clear.
  • The main purpose of the activation – S2S contacts with North American stations did not work out. The only North American stations that were spotted were either using 2m FM or 10m CW. As far as I know, no one managed a cross-Atlantic S2S on SSB, perhaps there was one or two on CW (but even that isn’t clear at the time of writing).
  • I was really happy that the equipment worked reliably however the fact that when the voltage gets low on the G90, it turns off is fine but that it also turns the power down to 1W from 20W and turns off the speech compressor surprised me. I’ll know next time.

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – March 7th 2022 – HEMA – DL/HCN-004 & SOTA DL/AM-180 – Berndorfer Buchet.

Background – Double summit.

Some of you may recognise the name of this summit from my previous reports. Berndorfer Buchet is a current SOTA and a current HEMA summit. How can this happen? Well HEMA strictly adheres to its rule of including only summits with a prominence greater than 100 metres and less than 150 metres. For historical reasons, SOTA summits are not always over the SOTA rule of a minimum of 150m prominence.  

Preparation:

This activation would be the first activation of a summit in the HEMA Southern Bavaria Central region and I wanted to get out to see what conditions were like portable into VK, early morning (around 0800 UTC). While a group of us had been making contact from home around this time, I seemed to be getting a far better report from Ernie VK3DET, than I was giving him. I have checked antennas and equipment and we are both running about the same power level. Ernie has a 3 element beam and I am only using a wire sky-loop antenna but none of this really explained the difference. I had also looked into whether the use of different antenna types, could cause the angle of incidence to the Ionosphere to be different and hence change the skip distance and coverage area at each end. Perhaps man-made noise levels could be the cause? The portable operation would be another research action. If I were to be able to work Ernie, this would be with an even simpler dipole antenna not far off the ground sending signals to Ernie’s 20m Yagi beam.

The weather had been extremely cold of late and was staying that way, so the early start needed for the radio window to Australia would be a test of my fortitude as well as a test for the equipment!

As usual, I packed the one rucksack full of equipment into the back of the car the night before the activation, so I could get an early start.

The Activation

The trip to the car parking spot for the summit was uneventful. It took around 35 minutes from my home.

On arrival, I could see that a lot of tree-felling had been done and the logs were pilled up ready for collection. Unfortunately, the track that I walked up to the summit was quite a mess, hopefully, the forestry people will repair it after they take the wood out. I had packed my screw-in sun-umbrella base on the side of the rucksack and this was the first thing to be unpacked on the summit. I screwed it into the same old tree trunk remains that I have used for the last five years. Next was the 6-metre fibreglass mast and linked dipole, with the links set for 20m as I had planned to only operate on 20m so that I would not need to be on the summit longer than needed.

Sending a quick note via the Signal app, which serves as our “back-channel” when we test, Ernie was there straight away in response to my CQ call. We exchanged 58 / 56 reports for this 24,000 km / 15,000 mile SSB contact via long path.  The 13 dB difference in power levels (I was using 20w, Ernie 400w) matches the 2-S point difference in reported signals. So this seems to confirm the point about the received noise level causing the imbalance in reports from the home location. After Ernie, I worked Keith, an ex-Pat Brit living in Bulgaria with the call LZ4DJ and Christos SV2OXS from Greece. Although spotted on the HEMA & DX Clusters I received no calls from the UK and Mike 2E0YYY using the Hack Green SDR could not hear me at all. The 20m band was obviously “running long” as normally I would get calls from the UK. I hadn’t planned to, but as I was still missing one contact to qualify the summit, I took the antenna down and switched the links to 40m where I bagged another three contacts reasonably easily.

The over-bearing problem on this activation was not the equipment, nor the propagation but rather the weather. When I decided to go QRT at 0900 UTC it was still minus 3 degrees centigrade and there was an icy wind starting. In these conditions, the best action is to close down and head back to the car, which I did.

 Photos:

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Equipment used:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90.
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella support.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hard-case 4S LIPOs).
  • 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone to spot and back-channel comms. 

Logs:

HEMA

SOTA

 

Conclusions:

  • The weather was on the borderline of dangerously cold and if this hadn’t been a summit that I know well, I may well have cancelled. Learning – know your limits and be prepared to shut down and go home earlier than planned.
  • It does seem that the reason that I can not give Ernie as good a report at my home station as he gives me, is the local noise level. Ernie is out on a farm where I live in a modern village. So electrical QRM is likely to get worse rather than better!
  • I was really happy with the contact with Ernie VK3DET – it just shows what a portable location can provide if you are there at the right time, even with low power.
  • No comments on the equipment – everything worked as it should including the Xiegu G90 radio which continues to perform well, especially on receive.

73 ’til the next summit, be it HEMA or SOTA – or perhaps BOTH again?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – June 23rd 2021 – DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet.

Preparation:

As we had now moved into hot summer days, where being on a summit later in the day was not be recommended, I decided to do an early morning activation when it was still cool. At the same time, I wanted to get a 40 metre Grey Line contact from a summit into ZL and possibly VK.

The conditions of late, hadn’t been so great and the SFI had dropped so it was quite possible that only a Grey Line propagation contact would be possible into VK/ZL and not the long-path F-Layer communication, but “who knows”? This would also be my second outing with the new XIEGU G90 radio.

Mike 2E0YYY kindly offered to go out to his local UK HEMA summit “Overmoor” G/HSP-021 at the same time and Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD would try to be listening from Victoria, Australia.

I decided on the one point Berndorfer Buchet summit as it is my closest summit and I hadn’t activated it in 2021 yet. My plan was to be operational by 0500 UTC (7am local time). so a short driving time means more time to wake up and have breakfast. Little did I know that there would be a road closure and diversion on my shortest route! The alarm was set for 05:30 local time and all equipment packed into the one (quite heavy) rucksack. The planned equipment was the new XIEGU G90 radio, battery box plus my new LiHV battery, my 6-metre mast with sun umbrella base and my linked dipole. As a backup, I would have my OCF dipole and the loaded HF vertical/tripod/radials configuration (hence the heavy backpack). 

The Activation

The trip down to Berndorfer Buchet normally takes 20-25 minutes but this day, the council had decided to do renovation work on part of my route adding 20 minutes to the first half of my journey and so dropping me into the time when many tradesmen are heading to work to be further delayed on the small country roads where overtaking is almost impossible. The result being that I arrived at the car park at Kerschlach around 7 am local time – when I had hoped to already be operational on the summit. It was raining and there was a cold, wet mist around. This was only to clear up and the sun to come out when I was packing up three hours later. I set off through the forest and up to the summit getting the gear set up and operational by 0520 UTC. As a change to my normal installation, I ran the linked dipole east-west rather than north-south. While at this height, the antenna is omnidirectional, the advantage of running it E-W is that it runs along the small ridge of the summit rather than down each side and hence the ends of the Inverted-V configuration are a little higher.  My first contact was with Mike 2E0YYY/P (so is that an H2S or an S2H contact?)  in any case he told me he had just worked Ron ZL4RMF in Dunedin, New Zealand (I often work Ron from my home station and he is always a pleasure to work), so I said 73 to Mike and headed off to find Ron – there he was a solid 55 signal but by now the pileup had arrived and I had no chance of getting through. When the hub-hub did finish and I might have had a chance, Ron either went off to 80 metres or for his evening meal. I did not have an easy way to check the DX Cluster (I must add a cluster monitoring app to my phone). Had I been on the summit 20 minutes earlier, it may have been before the amateurs in the UK could hear Ron and I think I would have had a good chance of a QSO with him as he is also in a location with a low background noise level. What I did realise during this activation was how the receiver in the new rig excels with no local “metro-noise” I was hearing lots of stations such as Jim E51JD in the south cook islands but with the high powered callers, again I had no chance of getting through although I’m sure he would have heard me.

During the 3 hour activation (a long one for me) I heard at workable strength’s ZL4RMF, Ron, (40m), E51JD, Jim (20m), VK3YFD, Ian (twice) 20m and K9TK BOOMING in from Florida on 20m. There was also some quite deep QSB on 20m, but I suspect this was related to the MUF only just getting above 14 MHz earlier in the activation.

What this outing has proved to me is when you get a good radio outside, even just with an inverted-V dipole at 5m AGL – you can hear the world! The problem is that with all the other impatient mega-watt home stations, the DX stations don’t often get a chance to hear lower power stations.

The SDR and waterfall proved useful when looking for a clear frequency but that didn’t help the one time when, by accident, I chose the SSTV calling frequency (14230) – oops -sorry! Even after finding a valid free frequency and checking it is free what often happens is that some idiot starts up 1-2 kHz off your frequency with modulation set far too high and never checks before calling! GRRR!

This was the longest activation I have done for some time with almost 3 hours on the summit. I actually managed to drain one of my 5Ah Lipo batteries so that the G90 reduced output power drastically at about 9v on load (receive kept working perfectly). I have two 5Ah Hardcase Lipos in my battery box, so it was just a matter of swapping the cable over and I could continue. Had it been needed, I also had a 4Ah LiHV battery in my bag as well.

Although it would have been nice to make a contact into VK or ZL during this activation, I am happy with the outing – I have 36 contacts in the log, including one H2S and one S2S contact and most importantly I have a station in one rucksack with everything needed, including a mast – a mast foot – a tripod mount with radials, two inverted_V antennas (one linked dipole, one OCF) and a loaded vertical that can do 80m through 70cm.

The G90 receiver, now that I am a bit more used to using it, is amazing! Certainly IC7300 class if not better and when I have been received, I have only had good comments about the transmit audio and I ran the whole time with speech compression on today.

 Photos:

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Equipment taken:

  • Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
  • Xiegu G90 transceiver.
  • Battery box with 2 x 5000 maH 4S LIPO batteries.
  • 4000 maH 3S LiHV battery (not used).
  • Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna (not used).
  • Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
  • Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella base.
  • SotaBeams linked dipole.
  • Aerial-59 OCF dipole (not used)
  • Painters thick plastic sheet.
  • Lightweight headphones.
  • Smartphone with PocketRxTx App and USB cable acting as an external display to the rig. (not used).

Log:

Conclusions:

  • The G90 performed brilliantly – the receiver combined with the spectrum scope/waterfall, despite its small size, is really useful
  • I need to add an easy to use DX-Cluster displaying app to my phone, to see where the DX stations have gone to. 
  •  That 20 minutes delay with the road diversion was a problem and now I know it’d have been quicker to have turned around and taken a different route rather than follow the signposted diversion. 
  • Running the antenna at 90° to my normal direction seems to be better, perhaps only because having the ends of the Inverted-V higher does help?

73 ’til the next summit.

 

 

 

 

DD5LP/P – November 25th 2020 – DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet – a lesson in strange propagation.

Preparation:

With the SFI breaking 100 in what must be the first time in almost five years, it was time to get out and get some summits activated before the COVID lockdown rules were changed again.

The original plan was to activate DL/BE-093 Irschenhausen and then go on to DL/MF-082 Schwarzer Berg, both of which I have not activated this year. Then two things happened – Mike 2E0YYY suggested we both try for contacts with Ernie VK3DET and Ian VK3YFD and that would mean an early start, plus I realised that Schwarzer Berg has 3 winter bonus points starting from December 1st (in a week), so would I want to do the almost 3-hour round-trip again in a week or 10 days time? No. So my revised plan became – head to my closest (already activated this year) summit – Berndorfer Buchet for the contacts into VK and then head on to Irschenhausen afterwards.

As it turned out because of cold, fog and a worry that something wasn’t right with the rig, after the Berndorfer Buchet activation, I headed home. The one pointer Irschenhausen can wait for another day.

I decided to do a comparison between my two most used antenna on this activation. The SOTABeams “band hopper” linked dipole and the Komunica HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna, so both sets of antenna and accessories were loaded into my medium-sized rucksack and along with my screw-in foot (intended for sun umbrellas but great for holding up the 6-metre squid pole) and just in case, my 10m mast and modified surveyors tripod, all were loaded into the back of the car on the evening before the activation.

So all packed for what was planned as two easyish activations which turned into just one.

The Activation:

The trip across to Burndorfer Buchet went without any problems. When I set off it was clear visibility at about halfway, the fog came down and on arriving at the Kerschlach car park the fog was almost cleared (to return later).

The 10 metre mast and surveyors tripod got left in the car as the rucksack on its own was heavy enough for the walk up the forest track and up the final climb (which I found blocked by recent tree trimming actions and so had to take a slightly different route to usual). The last part of the climb is often covered in leaves and twigs that are easy to fall through so care is needed but I arrived safely at the summit. The only way to identify this summit is either by the map or to find the trig-point stone but that is often covered by undergrowth. There is no summit cross or identification sign on this summit.

 This was a confusing activation as I could hear VK and ZL stations from the summit on 20m but they couldn’t hear me – even spotting myself and putting out multiple CQ calls – I got no replies. When I changed to 40m though, everything was fine and even some of the chasers on 40m, said they had listened for me on 20m and could not hear me. The equipment used on bath bands was the same.

I used both antennas on 20m and 40m – the loaded vertical and the linked dipole. With the linked dipole I’ve worked into VK before on 20m from that summit and all around Europe as well. I wondered if it was an intermittent fault – but everything (SWR etc.) all looked fine and I know I had each of the antennas set correctly to 20m. The strength and clarity of the signals coming out of VK and ZL were amazing! ZL1ACE was literally 30 dB over 9! OK, he was running 750w and using a 3 element Opti-Beam, so he has a great station but even so, that signal was unbelievable! Ian, VK3YFD (who was trying to work Mike 2E0YYY/P) was also a very comfortable 57. Ernie VK3DET (same group) who runs lower power was 55 at one point and I was listening to those two talking to each other as if they were locals to me during the time that they could not hear Mike. Of course, they didn’t hear me trying to break in. With SFI at 100, the conditions this morning on 20m were great. Mike did get through to both VK3s later on. Mike, on 20m, was never strong enough for me to work on 20m. On 40m, no problem between us apart from some QSB, which tells me the skip on 20m was ultra-long and favouring VK to EU/UK rather than EU/UK to VK. I might have had a better chance 30 minutes earlier than when I arrived on the summit. I got there at 0720 UTC and it was -3°C at the time (30 minutes earlier would have been even colder!). It only warmed up a little, 2 hours later when the sun kindly melted the ice off the tree branches so the I had rain with no clouds in the sky. The fog that had cleared then returned, so this was not a very pleasant operating environment.

I did get some antenna tests done though.
The loaded vertical on 20 metres receives 1.5-2 S-points better than the dipole at about 5 metres AGL.
I don’t know how the two antennas compare on transmit as I could not get one contact on 20 metres on either antenna!

On 40 metres working Mike, the loaded vertical was one S-point down on receive and 2 S-Points down on transmit, compared to the dipole.

Whether the vicinity to vertical, wet, trees will have affected the vertical antenna more than the dipole, I don’t know but certainly on 40m – it is possible to work stations using a vertical on a wooded summit – some had said that would not be possible.

Photos:

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Equipment:

  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
  • SOTABeams linked dipole.
  • Screw-in sun umbrella base.
  • 6 metre LambdaHalbe fibreglass portable mast.
  • Komunica HF-PRO-2-PLUS-T and my modified photo-tripod.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Log:

Conclusions:

The activation ended with more questions than answers and overall was a little disappointing but it is all part of the education that we get in this great amateur radio hobby of ours.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – May 8th 2020 – DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet.

Preparation:

With the mobility restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic lock-down being lifted two days earlier, this was my first chance to get out onto a SOTA summit again.

On the 7th. I had worked Ron, ZL4RMF from his superstation in Dunedin from my home QTH at 05:20 UTC and so I sent him an email asking if he might be on the following day about the same time (long path time for New Zealand to Europe contacts) and he kindly said he would be happy to listen out for me. Given the early time, I needed a close summit and Berndorfer Buchet is my closest summit and while only one point, I hadn’t actually activated it this year as yet.

During the lock-down, I had investigated why I was getting RF into the audio of my portable rig (the Xiegu X108G) when using it with my portable 70w RF amplifier. I tried everything to screen all inputs but in the end, it turned out not to be RF ingress (although it sounded like that). The problem was in fact that the Chinese amplifier module that I had set-up exactly to the provided instructions was not running in class AB1 as it was supposed to be but when in use was going into class B or even class C amplification which of course distorts badly an SSB signal!

The problem was found, corrected and then tested firstly local into a dummy load and then via a WebSDR in the days before this activation, so the activation would be the proof of whether indeed now everything was OK.

Berndorfer Buchet is just 30 minutes drive away from home but to make sure I would not be too late for the possibly ZL contact, everything was packed into the car, the night before – including a spare antenna and small tripod.

So the equipment to be used would be the Xiegu X108G, the 70w portable amplifier, the 10m mast and surveyors tripod to support it plus I would also take a new external speech processor to test out if I had time, alongside the built-in one. As always the rucksack had the linked dipole and the 40m OCF antenna (just in case). The extra antenna and tripod I mentioned above are the Konumica HF-Pro2 loaded vertical and a photo tripod, which stays in the new rucksack in any case. Given that Berndorfer Buchet has a forest on top of it, having to revert to using a vertical antenna would be a last resort.

So all packed for what should be an easy activation with the small chance of a nice contact to Ron in New Zealand again.

The Activation:

The trip across to Burndorfer Buchet went without any problems and I arrived at the parking area about 10 minutes ahead of my schedule. Ten minutes that I would need later.

The walk from the road up the forest track while a little cool is nice in the morning. A small deer ran across about 10 metres in front of me – no fear, that is simply the way it goes to get to its feeding area or whatever. The last part of the climb and often covered in leaves and twigs that are easy to fall through, but this time a large forestry vehicle had been part of the way up the slope and made a really muddy mess, that I had to work my way around with my new “Mountaintop” rucksack on my back (appropriate name HI) and the large surveyor’s tripod with the 10m fibreglass mast packed inside it over one shoulder.

Suffice to say when I got to the summit, I was somewhat out of breath! After a slug of water and a quick check around, I started by putting the tripod and thee mast up ready to take the antenna. Then out came the thick green plastic sheet and all of the equipment including the linked-dipole antenna which I intended to use. On taking it out of its plastic bag, I got an unfortunate surprise. One complete leg of the antenna was no longer attached to the feed-point. I considered whether I could somehow work out a way to fasten it together but as the antenna wire also forms the guy rope for the mast, I decided that might not be such a good idea. I always have a second antenna with me and I’m not talking about the loaded vertical HF-Pro2 – I had left that in the car as it would not have radiated with all the trees soaking up the radiation. I’m talking about the Aerial-51 404-UL off centre fed dipole. This antenna has the advantage that it will work on multiple bands without having to be taken down. It has the disadvantage of having to have a 4:1 balun which is additional weight at the top of the mast. In any case, I was glad I had the antenna in the rucksack and that became the antenna for this 40-metre activation.

Once I had all the equipment connected up and turned ion, I started tuning around 40 metres as Ron had told me around what frequencies he normally tried to operate on. The band was electrically noisy, which is strange as there are no buildings anywhere near this summit – so the interference was coming down from the Ionosphere. The signals that I could hear on the band (and there were lots of those) were varying dramatically with QSB. I was starting to doubt whether I would manage any contact with Ron from my portable set-up. In any case, I wanted to try out the amplifier, so rather than immediately calling for SOTA, I went and did some search and pounce but wasn’t able to get any contacts so I put up a spot and called for SOTA contacts. My first reply now was not a SOTA chaser at all – it was Peter G8HBS who had simply heard me calling CQ and called me. We exchanged similar 55 / 56 reports and then I moved on and Terry from York G0VWP called me and again we exchanged similar reports, this time 57 both ways. No one was complaining about my signal being distorted, all was OK with the amplifier – that’s one item off the to-do list completed. I then had a call from Leonardo in Italy IW0QO and this time the signals were not balanced with me giving Leonardo a 59 and getting just a 52 – but that’s OK, the Italians tend to run LOTS of power.

As the SOTA contacts dried up, I went hunting for Ron again and came across a UK station who was also looking for him while talking to some other UK station – so I knew that conditions were perhaps not good enough yet for New Zealand or perhaps simply not good enough, full stop. While tuning around I came across Peter near Belfast in Northern Ireland MI0AIH and had a bit of a chat with him and then tested how well he could hear me without the amplifier so I went down from 70w and turned up the Xiegu to its maximum 20w. result? Peter could hear I was there without the amplifier but could no longer understand what I was saying because of QRM. With the amplifier on, we exchanged 59/57 reports.

By this time I had just about given up on getting any contact with Ron when  I came across that UK station – Rob, M0KPD/M who had been looking for Ron as well. When he finished talking with Per DK7LJ I gave him a call to ask if he had found Ron ZL4RMF. Instead of Rob coming back to me, Per did and once he recognised my callsign, he said that he had worked Ron and Ron had been looking for me. Per checked and indeed Ron was still listening on frequency and Ron and I managed a contact. Not nearly as good as from my home station the day before but despite conditions being worse we did manage a 54 / 45 contact – so the contact was made. When Ron had to go, I carried on talking with Per in Keil in North Germany and he has TWO 40 metre capable beams – one with 3 elements on 40m and one with 4 elements – unreal! No wonder he can get through to Ron in New Zealand on most days!!

The short activation ended very nicely in the end. I didn’t manage to test the speech processors but that’s now something for the next activation.

Photos:

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Equipment:

  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
  • SOTABeams linked dipole and Aerial-51 404-UL OCF dipole.
  • Surveyors tripod.
  • 10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Log:

Conclusions:

The portable amplifier is working well. When I dropped it off-line as a test with the station in Northern Ireland he noticed a difference immediately. I “guesstimate” 2-S-points improvement using the amplifier over the 20w from the X108G on its own.

My very quick test with the internal speech compressor proved nothing and I need to test how this should be set (and whether the external DYC-817 is any better) on an activation where I am not in a rush to pack up and leave. as was the case on Berndorfer Buchet as we had a short family outing planned for 10am.

The fact that the linked-dipole broke as I was taking it out of its bag was just unlucky and in the meantime, it is repaired and ready for use again.

The contact with Ron in Dunedin, New Zealand is 90% down to his great station and the help from Per DK7LJ letting Ron know that I was there, but contact was made, the radio waves travelled half the way around the world and back again and this on 40 metres at the bottom of the solar cycle!

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – August 29th 2019 – DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet.

Preparation:

The primary aim of this activation was to get out again after a time away from activating. To test the equipment (and I) still work. As we have had some small improvement in conditions caused by PAE (Pre-Auroral-Enhancement) over the last few days, I was hoping for perhaps a contact into VK or ZL.

Berndorfer Buchet is my closest summit, being 30 minutes drive away from home however as I had already activated it once this year I would not get the one activation point for the summit. As it turned out I got 3 S2S contacts so that was a good by-product of what was more or less a testing excursion.

As I had decided to try for a VK/ZL contact I planned the use of the linked 20/40m VP2E antenna. The very summit at DL/AM-180 is wooded however and there’s only a little clearing, with nowhere enough space to fit the VP2E in. Plus the VP2E as the name indicates is a Vertically polarised two element wire antenna and vertical antennas do not work well in forrests as the trees absorb the transmitted signal. Just down from the summit however, there is a flat area, still within the activation zone but often quite damp underefoot. This is where I would put up the antenna. Because of its length, the antenna needs to be supported on the 10 metre mast and that I support with my surveyors tripod as there are no suitable other supports for the mast in the area.

My plan was to be on the summit by 0600 UTC which meant setting the alarm for 6am local time and then get ready and leave the house as quietly as possible. To help with this I packed everything I could in the car, the night before.

The Activation:

The trip across to Bernorfer Buchet took exactly the expected 30 minutes, however as I set off at 6:40 am local rather than the planned 7 am. I was at the car park ready to start the 10 minute walk to the summit in plenty of time.  As I approached the area where I planned to set up, it was obvious that the constant rain overnight had made the area very boggy in places, so some care would be needed in setting up the station. One improvement that I implemented this time was to put the 10m mast between the legs of the tripod and fold them up, so i had one less piece to carry (I have been laying the mast on top of tripod when I carried it over mty shoulder but this still needed a hand on the top to stop it falling off – the new solution worked well and will stay as part of the “standard processes” as I normally need the tripod when using the 10m mast.

Once at the site, I took a guess at where i would need to set-up the tripod and only had to move it once as I ran the antenna out. One end of the antenna was tied to a tree branch at about 2 metres high, while the other (front) end went down and was tied to a plastic stake. Although I carried my modified telescopic walking poles with me, they didn’t get used this tim to lift up the ends of the antenna.

I had decided to start on 20 metres as the most likely to supply some DX so the antenna was erected with the links open. I had considered putting my traps in, meaning I could use the antenna on both 20 & 40m without having to lower it to change bands but I’m not sure how much signal I lose through the traps and until I’m sure that it’s not important, I will continue with the manual linking and unlinking to change bands.

As I self spotted on 20m, I saw that most other activators were on 40m but I persevered and after my CQ got calls from Poland and Sweden at a good strength but the 20m band was very quiet so it certainly hadn’t opened yet. After a couple more CQ calls with no response I decided to change to 40m, so the mast was lowered and the links put in. 40m sounded immediately louder and tuning around I could here a fair level of activity. I saw that Bill DL/G4WSB/P and Mike 2E0YYY/P were spotted, so I went and worked them for 2 S2S contacts, then found a free frequency, spotted myself and put out my CQ call. Even with some QSB, I had a solid stream of 19 calls in 11 minutes – so a busy time!

At this point I was hearing lightening strikes over the air and my wife had texted me that there was a big storm with her that would no doubt get to me at some point, so I decided to give 20m another go before packing up. Ernie VK3DET in Victoria had been listening for me all the way through the activation but had not heard me yet, so this was the last chance, so I dropped him an email, spotted myself and put out some more CQ calls on 14.310, all the time knowing it would take me probably 10-15 minutes to pack everything up and I’d prefer not to be doing that in the rain. After a few calls with no response I decided it was best to pack up and announced I was going QRT. At this point I saw another activator had also just moved to 20m, so I went to Neno, 9A6ZE’s frequency and he was there, after a few corrections we got the needed information over and there was another S2S contact “in the bag”. By this time, it was definitely time to pack up and get back to the car!

Luckily I got everything packed and was half way home in the car before the rain arrived so I think I did he right thing to pack up when I did.

Photos:

 

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108G.

Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).

VP2E (Vertically polarised, 2 element, 20m wire antenna).

Surveyors tripod.

10 metre DX-Wire fibreglass portable mast.

Thick plastic painters sheet.

Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Log:

Conclusions:

The propagation was not good enough for me to make contacts into VK/ZL but I’m happy with the three S2S contacts that I made.

All the equipment worked correctly and I had no major problems either with the muddy site or with hiking to a summit after being away from SOTA for a couple of months.

The packing of the 10m telescopic mast “within” the tripod legs for transport is a good solution as is the wooden plate on the top of the tripod that gets used as a base for the mast.

I have confidence in the VP2E antenna which performed well but I still need to check what effect the traps have on it and also how directional the antenna is.

The sue of the PocketRxTx app on my smart phone to display what is on the screen of the X108G continues to be essential and the use of the one piece, short Micro-USB to USB-C-OTG cable instead of various combinations that I have used in the past works well. It is inconvenient to switch from the display app to SOTA Spotter or email however, so perhaps I need to purpose up a second Android smart phone, just to act as the rig’s display?

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – March 13th 2019 – DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet, DL/AM-001 Peissenberg & DL/AM-060 Laber – a tale of sudden storms.

Preparation:

Brian VK3BCM from Australia was visiting Munich and I offered to take him to a summit or two while he was over. We played with several possible higher scoring summits only to find some of them had closed their lifts for maintenance a couple of weeks or in one case one day before Brian and his wife arrived in Munich.

The main point (apart from picking up activator points and winter bonus points of course) was to get at least one DL summit qualified so that Brian has another association for his Mountain Explorer award.

The week before Brian arrived the weather turned from being relatively pleasant with the old snow melted, back to winter with new snow coming down and covering everything in just over an hour but much worse we got multiple days of hurricane force winds with sleet and rain.

For this reason I decided we should take a very simple summit first to complete the Mountain Explorer requirement, then go on to some more interesting summits. As Brian was based in the centre of Munich, we arranged that he would get a train to the town of Tutzing on Starnberger Sea (about half way to the closer summits) and I would pick him up from there and take him to the nearby Berndorfer Buchet summit. Once that was completed we’d go to the drive-up Peissenberg summit, where we would also get lunch at the convenient restaurant and then go on to Laber as the higher scoring summit with some great views

Little did we know what the weather was going to deliver to us!

In any case, as I wasn’t sure what Brian would be bringing, I packed several different antennas and mast configurations including the SOTABeams linked dipole, the Aerial-51 OCF dipole, two VP2E antennas and the Kommunica Power HF-Pro2 loaded vertical. As supports I had the small tripod for the Kommunica antenna, the big surveyors tripod to support the telescopic masts and the screw-in sun umbrella base “just in case”. For masts I took two Lambdahalbe 6m masts and my DX-Wire 10m portable mast.

All was packed into the car, the night before (actually in some cases re-packed as I did two activations on the 12th). This as it turned out was a good idea to prepare the night before ….

The Activation (Berndorfer Buchet):

As I was still eating my breakfast, Brian called – he was already on the train heading to Tutzing and would be there in 22 minutes! There had been a misunderstanding as I had expected Brian to take a later train and I had a good 40 minutes drive across to Tutzing. In any case this gave us a good start to the day and we were at the parking spot for Berndorfer Buchet after collecting Brian from the station, almost an hour earlier than I had planned.

Berndorfer Buchet is an easy one-pointer summit with a 10 minute forest walk in from the car parking area and a steep climb up to the actual summit, which as you’ll see from the photos, is fully forested. We arrived on the summit at about 0900 UTC and I wanted to show Brian the trig point stone on the summit but couldn’t find it under the layers of branches and leaves that had come down during the winter.

Both Brian and I had full kits of gear with us but rather than set up two stations close to each other, we agreed to share equipment and so I put up the surveyors tripod which acted as a support for Brian’s 6 metre fibreglass mast and homebrew 40m dipole.  Attached to that coax was Brian’s Elecraft KX3 which I was looking forward to see how it performed as I had only ever seen one previously.

Band conditions were not good but we both got more that the four required contacts on 40m. Brian tried 20m as we “may” have been able to get a contact into VK/ZL from this summit however we were too late for long path and too soon for short path – perhaps from the next summit?

 The weather was cold but dry at Berndorfer Buchet.

The Activation (Peissenberg):

After the drive, we arrived at Peissenberg at about 11:30 UTC (about right for a short path contact into VK/ZL if propagation allowed us). Well, after walking from the car park in sunshine to my standard station location – two benches alongside the church which sits right on the summit and starting to set up the antenna mast, Brian and I spotted some storms in the distance to the west. Within minutes, the winds (over 70 km/h) and sleet / snow hit us (see pictures and linked video below). Brian asked if we should wait for it to pass but as we had planned to take lunch at the restaurant which is also on the summit, we decided to pack up what had been unpacked, drop it all back into the car and head to the restaurant by which time we were covered in ice from head to toe. After sitting down at a window and looking out at the tables that were covered in snow outside, suddenly the sun came out and the storm had passed. As we were already seated, we of course stayed and had lunch to warm us up a little as well.

Once lunch was completed, it was back to the car, grab just my gear (20 watt Xiegu X108G, 6m mast and SOTABeams linked dipole) as we decided to use my gear on this summit and then we went back to the two benches by the church. After setting up the weather conditions were certainly better with a little sunshine. The radio conditions had not improved much however we did get a minor pile-up from this summit and Brian and I easily got the required contacts to qualify the summit. As opposed to the first summit, this 1 point summit came with 3 winter bonus points and I think we earned them!

Just as we had decided to pack up so that we’d have time for the third summit, another storm approached and hit just as we got back to the car with all the gear. We wondered whether, with the high winds we were feeling, the cable car up to Laber would be running but the only way to find out was to go there and see. So the Navi (GPS) was set and off we drove.

The Activation (Laber):

On arriving at the car park for the Laber cable car, we could see it was running and when we asked, the operator said they had not had any bad weather so far today. It had been a nice sunny calm day.

The ride up in the oldest cable car system in Germany went without any issues. This system has just 4 cars on a fixed cable that means that when one car is at the bottom, two are at the half way point and one is at the top. So the cable car always stops at half way up and half way down to allow people to get out of and into the cars at the top and the bottom.

On arriving on the summit, we were greeted by sunshine and great views down into the valley but cold temperatures. The place where I usually set-up was not available as it was covered in snow and restricted from access as it was the top of a ski run. We took a look at the roof platform with the microwave links and cell repeaters on it but settled on the luxury of using the outside tables at the restaurant. This whole area is well within the AZ so there are no problems.

For this summit I had brought along my Komunica Power HF Pro 2 loaded whip and a small tripod as I know in my usual position it can be difficult to get a dipole out. With locating on the restaurant’s balcony however it isn’t difficult and so Brian agreed to put his mast and antenna up and again we used the KX-3.

So the weather conditions are good, if still a little cool, but what are the band conditions like? Horrible! It was a real fight to get the needed 4 contacts but we eventually did and as the last one was made the sleet started again. It seems our friendly snow storm had followed us down from Peissenberg! Once packed up it was time for a quick warm drink in the restaurant before getting the cable car back down the mountain. At first we thought we had missed one car and would have to wait for the next one in 15 minutes but no, we were lucky, the operator held the car and let us get in with 4 other people. The car rocked a little on the way down as the winds increased again but we safely reached the bottom and then it was time to head back to Tutzing for Brian to catch a train back to Munich. What had seemed to be a day with lots of time had shot by and I arrived home about an hour later than I had expected on the original plans but we’d managed to activate three different summit in the one day, which was quite good.

Photos (Berndorfer Buchet):

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Photos (Peissenberg):

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VIDEO – Peissenberg on Youtube here.

Photos (Laber):

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Equipment used:

Berndorfer Buchet:

  • Surveyors Tripod
  • Brian’s Elecraft KX3 and battery box
  • Brian’s 40m dipole and 6m mast
  • Plastic painters sheet.

Peissenberg:

  • Xiegu X108G.
  • Battery box (2 x 5000maH hardcase LIPOs).
  • SOTABeams linked dipole.
  • 6 metre lambdahalbe fibreglass portable mast.
  • Thick plastic painters sheet.
  • Smartphone PocketRxTx App and USB cable.

Laber:

  • Brian’s Elecraft KX3 and battery box
  • Brian’s 40m dipole and 6m mast

Log (Berndorfer Buchet):

Log (Peissenberg):

Log (Laber):

Conclusions:

The propagation again wasn’t great but the weather was worse!

All in all a good if challenging, day out where we managed the three planned summits in the end.

I was able to compare the KX3 with the Xiegu albeit on different summits. I think the extra “punch” of 20+W from the Xiegu makes a difference over the 10W from Brian’s KX3. Both rigs are not easy to hear though the built-in loudspeakers and are better with headphones.

73 ’til the next Summit!

DD5LP/P – March 30th. 2018 – The race for winter bonus points DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet, DL/AM-060 Laber, DL/EW-001 Wank.

Preparation:

The original plan was to activate Eisenberg DL/AL-171 on Good Friday 30th. March 2018 to try again for long path into VK/ZL after failing about two weeks previously. In the interim I had addressed some of the gear problems and hoped for better success. At least  I should be able to grab the 3 winter activator bonus points (which cease at the end of March in the DL region). This summit, which while still some distance from home, given the clock change a week prior, would be accessible hopefully in time for the long path window. I did not want this to be an organised S2S event as the previous had been but did ask a few people if they were likely to be on. One, Rod VK2LAX said he would probably be able to get out to Mount Elliot VK2/HU-093 while Mike 2E0YYY and John VK6NU also planned to get out as well. Due to a few problems, I decided to reschedule the early activation to Easter Saturday, the 31st. of March and announced this on the reflector. Given that I now had Friday clear, I could go and activate the normally easy Laber and Wank summits on Good Friday, to grab their winter bonus points.

On the Thursday before Good Friday, Rod sent me a short note asking if I was still set to go out early on Friday as he had arranged a small group from the Central Coast ARC to come along. At this point I realised that as Rod doesn’t follow the SOTA reflector he didn’t know of my (and others) reschedule to Saturday. With the clock difference and the short time window after first letting Rod know that Eisenberg would only be on Saturday morning not Friday, I decided it would only be fair to fit in another (early morning accessible) summit on Good Friday prior to the Laber and Wank activations and planned for Berndorfer Buchet, my closest summit. I have contacted VK previously on a few occasions from this summit. Berndorfer Buchet does not gain winter bonus points but I had not activated it in 2018 so it would still be another activator point and the purpose was to try for some contacts into VK/ZL rather than the activator points. So all was set, I thought, except I found out early Friday morning that in parallel Rod had rescheduled the group at his end to Saturday. Never mind, the plan was there now and I’d catch Rod and group on Saturday all being well, now to concentrate on the three summits planned for Good Friday.

Equipment-wise I was determined to use the new Xiegu X108G rig rather than the FT-817 and amplifier however for safety sake the 817 would be packed as well. The antenna was the issue. My experiments with the QRP-Guys tri-bander vertical were not going well with my modifications to add 60m being reversed but the antenna would not be ready in time. The Komunica Bazoka Pro was not looking like a good solution after previous trials but I knew on the second two summits, especially Laber, I would have very little space for an antenna,. I decided to go back to my Diamond RHM-8B loaded vertical whip which had worked from a summit in the past. As I would not have room for a tripod and while this antenna is designed to fasten directly to the rig, I added a mounting plate to the back of the X108G where the antenna would mount. I would also take the usual 6m squid pole and the linked dipole as I knew for sure this works well from Berndorfer Buchet where I have more than enough room to put it up. I would however also be taking a new base for this mast – much smaller and lighter that the sun umbrella screw-in base that I had used before. The battery box now had a new regulator that should handle up to 10 amps (the rig can draw up to 7.5 amps) so this is another change in the equipment. These activations would have the risk of something failing or simply not working – hopefully I have enough alternatives to try if something lets me down.

Time would tell …

The Locations:

Berndorfer Buchet is about 30 minutes drive from my home and located in a forest. From the car park to the summit is a good 15 minutes walk. The hill is located above the village of Pähl at the southern end of the Ammersee lake.

Laber is accessed by a sixty year old cable car taking you up from Oberammergau (the village famous for its “Passion Play” every 10 years). Space at Laber is restricted at the best of times with it under several feet of snow safe space really is limited.

Wank is the “house mountain” of Garmisch-Partenkirchen on the German, Austrian border and is also accessed by a cable car plus a short walk up about 30 vertical metres to the summit which is covered with radio equipment both commercial and amateur and a large golden holy cross which is very much a tourist attraction.

The Activations:

Berndorfer Buchet.

The weather at home when I set off at about 7am local time was cold with a little drizzle.The drive over to Berndorfer Buchet was uneventful and I was at the car park near Kerschlach by 05:30 UTC. The track into the forest was very muddy. It looks like they had just finished harvesting some trees out of the forest and the large vehicles used had torn up the track. In addition to the mud, this track is also used often by a local horse stables, so there were quite a few “deposits” from the horses to be avoided as well.

The last climb up to the summit was difficult with lots of small branches left behind from the tree harvesting and a moss like ground underneath. Some care was needed to get up the slope with my two equipment packs without twisting an ankle. Once at the summit, everything was as previous visits and I was able to quickly put down my painters plastic sheet and start unloading the bags. The first new item was the stake from Decathlon that Luc ON7DQ had tipped me off about. I’m glad to say it went straight into the ground without any problem and the squid pole was dropped into it, with a couple of pieces of wood that were lying around at the side to stabilise it. Then I ran the SOTABeams Band-hopper out, un-did the 20m links and put the mast up. Then the battery box and Xiegu rig came out of the bags. I connected everything up, get out the log and pen – and then it starts to rain… Luckily not for long though (the rain came and went and was never too hard). So I tuned around 20m and finding nothing on, picked a frequency, spotted myself and started calling CQ. Nothing … The band was so quiet I checked that the rig was working, that the antenna had a good SWR (the X108G has a nice SWR scan feature) and everything looked fine. OK I was quite early for 20 metres, I had started at 05;50 UTC. I lowered the mast, put the links back together and raised the antenna to use it on 40m. This time I could hear stations OK so I found a clear frequency and again spotted myself and started calling. After a while I heard a weak call from Terry G0VWP in York. As we talked there was a lot of QSB on both signals but slowly the strength seemed to be getting stronger. It was as if someone had turned the bands off overnight!. After talking with Terry, I switched backwards and forwards between 40 & 20 metres trying to get the needed extra 3 contacts to at least qualify the summit. At 06:55 UTC I found a Special Event station in France and worked him with no problem, so I was getting out OK. After this contact, I again found a free frequency and spotted my self. There then followed nine contacts in eight minutes, all on 40m, nothing on 20m. As I wanted to activate the other two summits, it was time at 07:10 UTC to pack up and head back to the car. No 20m contacts this morning not even within Europe. Conditions were bad.

Once back at the car, I selected DL/AM-060 Laber in the GPS Navi and set off for the next summit. The GPS took me a slightly different way than I expected but I was soon on the back roads that I know well and after about an hours driving I was at the car park for the Laber cable car.

Laber.

This lift is the oldest in Germany and celebrates its 60th. year of service this year. It consists of just four gondola cabins and the runs in 1/4 rotations and then stops. That means once you are in the cabin, you travel half way up the mountain and stop. This is to allow people to embark and disembark at the top and bottom of the lift in the cabins ahead and behind you. The fourth cabin is alongside you at half way, but on its way down the mountain. This means the cabins don’t have to connect and disconnect from the cable except when the cableway is out of service over night. A simple system that has worked well for 60 years!

The run up the mountain takes about 13 minutes and once you leave the cable station you are already on the summit. at this time of year a few skiers are there, sometimes there are hang-gliders setting off and quite often people come up in the lift and then take 2-3 hours to walk down sometimes with their dog. Laber is a friendly summit, that has a cosy restaurant in the cable car station but rarely gets very busy due to the limited capacity of the cable car system.

Today Laber WAS busy though as with the snow falls over the last few weeks there was only limited space available. I quickly headed to the bench and put down my painters sheet and gear. This was now time to use the Diamond RHM-8B antenna to pull in the needed 4 contacts, pack up and leave to go down the mountain after taking a few photos. Starting at around 09:30 UTC, I could get no responses whatsoever to my calls using the Diamond antenna. So I decided I had to get the dipole up “somehow”. I strapped the squid pole to the back of the bench and the run of the dipole back down towards the cable car station was at least off the ground but the run in the opposite direction, that I managed to tie off part way up a flag pole was literally laying in the snow! Not a good configuration! It worked though! From 09:49 I managed the needed 4 contacts and packed up at 10:00 UTC. the people I had ridden up with in the cable car had been watching me and when we saw each other in the valley, they asked what I had been doing and I explained a little about amateur radio to them. I think they may have just been being polite but all left to our cars with a smile.

Wank.

The third and last summit for the day was Wank, near Garmish-Partenkirchen. I lost some time in the car park here as the parking meters only take the exact amount. parking is 3 Euros for up to 24 hours and in small change I only had 2 2 Euro coins which all three machines rejected. as I went to the place you buy tickets for the cable car, the lady knew exactly what was coming and had two 1 Euro coins ready for my 2 euro that I asked to change. What a crazy system. in any case once I got the ticket for the car, i then went back to the same lady to buy the ticket for the ride up to and down from the Wank Summit.

The cabins at Wank are about the same size as the ones at Laber however there are a lot more of them. there are in fact two lift systems one from the valley to the middle station and one from the middle station to the summit. the cabins automatically go from one system to the other at the middle station. Interesting technology. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the top station of the Cabin railway but that’s not the end of the journey. The actual summit is a further about 30 vertical metres above the top of the railway, so it’s at least another 10 to 15 minutes before one reaches the summit, which is behind a very large golden holy cross. On this day getting from the cross to somewhere that I could set-up was “interesting” as the snow had drifted and at one point, I was up to my knees in snow! Luckily I got safely through that and flattened my own area out in the snow before laying out painters plastic sheet and my gear. I tried the new stake here as I had at Berndorfer Buchet – no chance the snow was too soft, it just kept falling over, So as there was a bank of snow handy, I simply pushed the squid pole down into that. With two sections under the snow it was stable enough to support the dipole and I ran out the dipole ends in opposite directions. Here as well, the dipole ends were close to the snow, but I just hoped it would work and it did, at least to a good enough extent. several youngsters then came by playing in the snow and really enjoying themselves and letting everyone know by their screams, so it was out with the headphones and switch on the blocking of outside noise.

When I looked at the rig I knew I had a problem. I could not see what was being displayed on the LCD screen. It had been difficult to read at Laber but here it was impossible.the sunlight reflecting off the snow simply raised the light level to a level where the display could not complete. Trying to shade the display didn’t help and thinking about it later, it was probably my eyes that needed the shade not the display as my pupils will have drastically reduced in size to reduce the light input into the eye. If only I had, had a SOTA Baseball cap in my bag! Wait a minute – I did ! but of course as I didn’t realise what the problem was at the time i didn’t wear the cap. I did try my auto-tinting polarised driving glasses that I had brought up with me as I thought they might help – but they actually made things worse as they went black and then there was no chance of seeing anything.

l could not see what frequency I was on, but I hoped it was still 7090 KHz which was the last frequency I had used on Laber, so I self spotted on that frequency and started calling CQ SOTA from the snow. Ivo 9A1AA was the first to respond at 12:17 UTC and he was then followed by a further ten contacts 15 minutes. All through this I had to fight interference from another station on frequency. I can’t say who was on the frequency first but I knew I couldn’t move as turning the tuning dial, I would not know where I was, as I couldn’t see the display!

While packing up, I was approached by a young woman whose husband and son kept walking and left her behind. She showed a real interest in Amateur radio and I gave her a brochure on the hobby that I have with me and I hope that something might come out of that. It’s a real shame she didn’t come by 10 minutes earlier when I still had all the equipment connected and working.

The trip back down the mountain gave me a chance to catch up on my emails and the drive home, considering this was Good Friday, went reasonably well if a little slower than normal.

 

And what about DL/AL-171 Eisenberg on Saturday morning?

I’ve had to bail (cancel). I set off from home at 06:40 local (04:40 UTC) and as I stepped outside, after no rain overnight, it started to spit with rain – nothing to worry about I hoped. It’ll stop and even if it doesn’t, it’s bearable. After about 20 minutes driving, the rain had become a constant down-pour, so I pulled into a lay-by to asses whether continuing the 1hr+ drive was sensible. Looking in the direction I would be going the skies were full of black clouds and at that point the regional weather forecast came on the radio to say the rain would be continuous until about midday at least.Given that the walking track up to Eisenberg is both steep and slippery even in the dry, it would most likely have been a bog with a river running down it, by the time I got there.

I considered going to a different summit, just to get on but the weather was looking fairly threatening, so no matter where I could have gone, it would have been questionable as to whether I would have got to the summit. As the SFI (Solar flux Index) hadn’t raised as predicted, it was still down at 68, I decided the best option was to call off my activation and wait for a better day (Terrestrial and Space weather-wise). After returning home, I saw that as well as SFI still being at 68, the K index has gone up to 3 so not only hadn’t the RF conditions got better, the noise level had also come up.

Eisenberg will have to wait until December to get the bonus winter points this year but I may activate it before then in any case as it is a nice trip out in the sunshine.

Photos:

   1. DL/AM-080 Berndorfer Buchet.

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  2. DL/AM-060 Laber.

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  3. DL/EW-001 Wank.

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Equipment:

Xiegu X108-D “outdoor” version.

Diamond RHM-8B 40-6m vertical antenna.

SOTABeams “Band-Hopper” linked Dipole.

LambdaHalbe 6m telescopic fishing pole.

Decathlon push in mast base.

Battery box with 2 x 5Ahr 4S LIPOs and regulator to 13.8v.

Logs:

 1. DL/AM-180 Berndorfer Buchet.

  2. DL/AM-060 Laber.

3. DL/EW-001 Wank.

Conclusions & actions:

  1. The diamond RHM-8B antenna is a real let down. It is only worth using when conditions are good and any antenna will do. In bad conditions as we have at the moment, it’s a waste of effort.
  2. I will need to do something about operating in the sunlight, whether it be a matt plastic cover on the Xiegu’s OLED display or a cap with a large sunshade – something has to be done.
  3. The new small lightweight base from Decathlon was a success.
  4. The X108G (apart from the display visibility problems) and the new regulator work fine.
  5. With using the 4G connectivity on my smart phone during the activation along with the inbuilt GPS, the battery drains fairly quickly and the phone did not charge in the car between summits – an investigation there found a faulty USB cable which has now been replaced so next time a car recharge of the smart Phone battery between summits should be possible.

73 ’til the next Summit!